Per the Alberta Fire Code 2014, Fire Alarm Systems must be maintained in operable condition, and must be inspected and tested in accordance with CAN/ULC-S536. This standard defines the minimum requirements, but higher standards may be required by your insurer or based on the type of facility.
Every day the alarm control panel should be checked to confirm the power is on, and no trouble signals are showing. This check can be performed by the building owner or tenant, and should be recorded in a log.
A quick check of the panel, batteries, and at least one device on the system is required every month. This must be performed by a certified technician. While required by the Fire Code, this is not frequently enforced by local authorities on a pro-active basis; However a post incident investigation will normally ask for records of these checks and failure to complete them may affect liability in the event of a system failure.
Once a year the entire Fire Alarm system must be tested for functionality. This involves individually checking every smoke and heat detector, every manual pull station, and all tie-ins to other systems(sprinklers, suppression systems, fan shut-downs, etc.). Depending on the size and complexity of the system, this can take anywhere from an hour to several days. Most commercial building can be completed in a day or less. Large residential buildings can take a couple days when it is necessary to access several hundred suites. Some particularly complex industrial sites could take longer. Most annual inspections will require at least two technicians, and are billed hourly. As every system is different, the best way to obtain an estimate for the cost of an inspection is to provide us with a previous inspection or verification report, including a complete device list.
What to expect
Monthly testing can usually be performed by one technician, as can annuals for some small and simple systems. Annual inspections on most systems will require two technicians, one at the panel and one testing devices. This team will individually test each initiating device that is part of the system either by triggering the device or, in the case of one-time-use devices, shorting the supervising wires. The signalling devices(bells or horn/strobes) will be disabled while this is ongoing. The bells will also be tested either all at once, or in sections for large buildings. Testing the bells takes as long as a quick walk through of the whole building, and can be done when it is convenient for the client. Some like to use the bell test as a fire drill, while others prefer to do it during lunch when most staff can leave the building.
If any problems are found with the system one of two things will happen. Small issues can sometimes be corrected by the technician before leaving; If the fix requires any parts or significant labor, a client representative must be available to approve the work. If an issue cannot be corrected immediately, then a quote will be provided if possible and followup maintenance scheduled if approved. Any significant impairment to the system will be brought to the attention of our contact on site.
There are a few items the client must do to prepare for an inspection
- Post notice - in a residential building all tenants must be notified 48 hours in advance that testing will be taking place. In addition access will be required to any suite with a device inside and tenants must be notified of this as well.
- Monitoring - most fire alarm systems are monitored by a security service or other monitoring provider. The job of the monitoring provider is to alert the fire department in the event an alarm is triggered on your system. When performing testing, the monitoring provider needs to be notified, so they do not initiate a fire department response. The client will need to contact their monitoring provider before beginning and after completion of testing.
- Access - Technicians will need access to all parts of the building that contain Fire Alarm devices. This includes mechanical rooms, server rooms, residential suites, and anywhere else there is a detector or signaling device. Make arrangements to provide technicians with keys or escort as necessary
- Elevators - Elevators will generally have a device at the top of the shaft. The technician will need access to it, and will need an elevator service technician present to facilitate this. Best practice is usually to schedule your monthly Elevator service call for the same day as the Alarm inspection to avoid an additional service charge from your elevator contractor.
- Device List - If it is our first time performing an inspection on a system, the client should provide a copy of a previous years inspection report, or installation verification report. This will include a list of all devices on the system our technician can use to make sure nothing is missed. We can only check what we know is there, and having the list will speed up the inspection saving time and money.
Something is wrong, what should i do?
If the alarm bells are ringing, evacuate immediately and call 911.
If your control panel is lighting up any trouble indicators, the system is telling you it thinks something is wrong, and service may be required. The first thing to do is take a picture or video. Some panels will log troubles, but many don't. For a technician to figure out what is wrong, they need to know what the panel is saying. Some times the trouble does not stick around long enough for a technician to get to site, so it is very important that you record what the panel is doing. Most panels will have additional indicators that you can only see when the door is open, so make sure to open it up and take a picture of that as well. Then give us a call.
When you talk to our technician they will ask you to describe what the panel is doing, send the picture you took, and maybe use some of the controls to get additional information. If the technician can identify the issue as non-urgent, we will schedule a regular service call within a few days to investigate and correct it. If the issue is an urgent one, you may be offered an emergency call-out. Emergency call-out rates apply to any after hours and weekend work, or any time we need to cancel other scheduled work during normal business hours. Emergency call-outs have high minimum charges that will apply, even if the action taken is a quick, simple, or incomplete solution.